Candidates Round 3: Kramnik wins brilliancy

by André Schulz
3/12/2018 – The big winner of round 3 of the Candidates Tournament in Berlin is Vladimir Kramnik. With a powerful and brilliant attack, he won a crucial game with Black against Levon Aronian. The other three games of the round ended in a draw. With 2½/3 Kramnik is now sole leader. Tuesday is the first rest day in Berlin. The tournament resumes on Wednesday at 15:00 CET (10:00 AM EST) | Photo: World Chess

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Attention: the g-pawn is coming!

The Candidates Tournament in Berlin had a spectacular start. In round one three of the four games ended with a win, only Levon Aronian and Ding Liren drew, after the Armenian spoilt a good position.

Round two saw four interesting games but only one ended with a decision — Alexander Grischuk defeated Wesley So who thus started the tournament with two losses. Kramnik, who had White in his first two games, played against Sergey Karjakin, and was close to his second victory but could not overcome Karjakin's precise defence.

However, Kramnik seems to be extremely motivated and well-prepared — which also showed in his opening choice against Karjakin. He played 1.e4, a rare guest in Kramnik's repertoire. After all, during the press conference before the tournament, he had promised surprises and novelties. And he has Anish Giri as a second, a player who is known for his vast theoretical knowledge — and probably the strongest of all the seconds helping in Berlin. 

Berlin is Levon Aronian's fourth Candidates Tournament and in all the previous three he was one of the favourites — as he is in Berlin.

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian | Photo: World Chess

Aronian 0-1 Kramnik

In round three Aronian played against Kramnik with White. With 1.e4 e5 Kramnik invited Aronian to a Spanish and Aronian accepted. After 2.Nf3 Nc6 Kramnik opted for the Berlin (what else?) with 3...Nf6, which Aronian answered with 4.d3, the so-called "Anti-Berlin". After a couple of unspectacular moves, Kramnik suddenly came up with 7...Rg8, preparing to advance with g7-g5 because Aronian had played h3 — a rather common move in this line.


Aronian must have been pretty shocked and a few moves later he made a gross mistake:


Kramnik finished the game with a spectacular mating attack:


IM Sagar Shah uses ChessBase 14 and a few tools at his disposal to try and find out if ...Rg8 by Kramnik was a brilliant novelty or careless preparation by Aronian.

My Path to the Top

On this DVD Vladimir Kramnik retraces his career from talented schoolboy to World Champion in 2006. With humour and charm he describes his first successes, what it meant to be part of the Russian Gold Medal team at the Olympiad, and how he undertook the Herculean task of beating his former mentor and teacher Garry Kasparov.

Video: World Chess

So ½-½ Ding Liren

Wesley So and Ding Liren also played a popular line of the Spanish, the Marshall Gambit. This opening has been deeply analysed but after 20 moves So came up with a new move.


However, this novelty did not really change the character of the position and the game ended like so many other games in the Marshall: with a draw.


Video: World Chess

Karjakin ½-½ Grischuk

In a Russian duel, Karjakin played against Grischuk, a Giuoco Pianissimo in the Italian. Grischuk had no problems with Black and after 30 moves the point was shared.


Video: World Chess

Caruana ½-½ Mamedyarov

Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov followed a long, well-known line in the English attack in the Sicilian Najdorf, which led to a sharp, double-edged position in which both players sent their queens foraging into the enemy camp.


A few moves later Caruana won the exchange.


However, Mamedyarov got a couple of pawns for the exchange and he had dangerous passed pawns on the kingside which nourished his hopes for a win. But in the end, the position was dynamically balanced — and ended in a draw.


Video: World Chess

Tuesday is the first rest day in Berlin. The tournament resumes on Wednesday at 15:00 CET (10:00 AM EST).

Standings after round 3:




Round-up show with IM Lawrence Trent

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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fair1play fair1play 3/15/2018 05:26 for full analysis or replay here
JAIME-UK JAIME-UK 3/14/2018 01:54
Karlovich said the her first question wasn't related to the game? then she comment about 1e4....that was the first move of the game isn't!?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/14/2018 05:28
@ Jack Nayer : I like very much GM Hort's articles, but it is true that for me, the MOST important thing for which I come to this website are the GM annotated games. And not to have them for such an important tournament is quite surprising and disappointing, in my opinion...
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 3/14/2018 04:53
This is the candidates. After three rounds there is no GM analysis. With all respect, I am not one bit interested in Fischer plucking mushrooms (Hort). This is irrelevant. Please provide analysis.
Aighearach Aighearach 3/14/2018 03:55
Kramnik was known for fighting chess before he was ever known as Drawnik. In the end he's learned the most about every type of play. Even if they're all about equal threats to Carlsen in any one tournament game, in a match I think Kramnik presents a lot more dangers than anybody else.

Caruana would only have good chances in a match if it was during his best two weeks of the year.
DragonVerde27 DragonVerde27 3/14/2018 01:15

26. exd5?? Force mate on 8
KevinC KevinC 3/13/2018 05:23
@RayLopez, a "brilliancy" has nothing to do with length. A "miniature" is usually defined as a game under 25 moves.
Pakultog_1914 Pakultog_1914 3/13/2018 03:37
Carlsen vs Kramnik will be a good match. Remember when Kramnik beat Kasparov, everybody thought that Kasparov was unbeatable.
ebit ebit 3/13/2018 02:49
Giri had nothing to do with Kramnik's masterpiece, watch the press conference.
Stupido Stupido 3/13/2018 02:28
What amazed me most is that the day before, Judit Polgar suggested exactly the same idea as a half-joke (in the Grischuk-So game if I remember correctly), saying that now grandmasters are not afraid of that type of play and discussing her obsession with g4/g5 attacks when she was young.
bondsergey bondsergey 3/13/2018 02:04
After 45 the brain capabilities decline, so Kramnik has no more than 3 years (he is 42). It is his last chance to win the title. I now believe Giri has vast theoretical knowledge as an article states. Two reasons - 1) he can draw every player. It is just so difficult for him to find a winning path when playing a player from top 10. 2) Kramnik chose him. Magnus himself learned chess from Kasparov just before going right on top of the rating list. So his tweets are unfounded.
laramonet laramonet 3/13/2018 01:38
It may not be fashionable to stick to principles of play these days, when everything seems to need precise analysis or computer backing. However, I'm sure that as a relative beginner, one of the guides I was given was"In an open game never play h3 when 0-0 has been played before the opponent has played 0-0". I'm sure people will say that's too simplistic but it was the first thing that jumped into my head when I saw Rg8. It appears to be the natural way to take advantage of the early h3 after 0-0. I'd love to say I thought of Rg8 when I saw h3 but I didn't. Perhaps that's why I don't play open games any more !
pyl pyl 3/13/2018 12:24
Too early to say, of course, but I'm sure Magnus will be worried if Kramnik wins indeed. He has a tremendous match experience and knows how to beat seemingly unbeatable world champions ...
Lachesis Lachesis 3/13/2018 12:05
I hope Kraminik is the challenger
KOTLD KOTLD 3/13/2018 09:30
Keep them coming, big Vlad !
ngnn ngnn 3/13/2018 08:40
"He played 1.e4, a rare guest in Kramnik's repertoire."

That was true before 2016, but since then Kramnik has been playing e4 quite frequently.
oldsalt7 oldsalt7 3/13/2018 07:27
The Kramnik/Giri combo are favourites now.
RayLopez RayLopez 3/13/2018 06:31
A true brilliancy (well almost since over 25 moves but Aronian should have resigned earlier) and note this is NOT home analysis by Giri since Aronian made sub-optimal moves before the brilliant (and hard to see) 18...f5!! by Kramnik. A game for the ages!
AIekhine AIekhine 3/13/2018 06:23
Kramnik is a legendary player but he is not known for daring play. Amazing game and especially to try it against Aronian!
sotoli321 sotoli321 3/13/2018 06:04
I dont like such 'brilliancy'. Short-life "brilliancy"like Nakamura's "brilliancy" against Anand in previous candidates tournament.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/12/2018 11:11
Round 3 of the Candidates, and still no GM's or IM's annotations ?? What's happening ?